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The Listener, a play in one act

Scene 1:  The Headquarters of the Listener Crossword.  Kea is drinking just the right amount of port from six bottles lined up so that when tapped with a shrimp fork, they emit exactly the tone that is needed to be reproduced in his next puzzle.  Tiburon is destroying mere mortals at Words With Friends.  A dozen grandfather clocks strike 12, and John Green, like a ninja, enters and winds them all so that they will strike another day.  Kea and Tiburon nod approvingly.  It is February 19.


We must have something for the middle of April.  Maybe some light relief after all that Morbid March we’ll have coming up


Aptil 11 is Jeremy Clarkson’s birthday.  Maybe a grid that the solver has to scrunch up and medically sew back together?


Too current.  It’s the 100th anniversary of the first performance of Pygmailon. Maybe the wordplay will leave out all the aitches and the solver has to replace them, and we’ll have GEORGE BERNARD SHAW in the diagonal?


That would be a 17 x 17 grid, my good chap.  200th anniversary of the exile of Napoleon?  We could have the solvers mail their solutions to Elba and send John Green over there to pick them up.


How about that one that we wrote?


We could… how do we know it’s any good?


How about we send it to the most dimwitted test-solver in the universe?


I know the very chap

Scene 2:  The basement lair of George vs the Listener Crossword.  George is double-fisting coffee and real ale, and checking his laptop to see if any more hits on his blog have come from Nigeria.  The “You’ve got Mail” voice sounds, which confuses George because he hasn’t had AOL since 2003.  There is a message on the screen.  Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

test solving

Inbox x

XXXXXXXX <XXXXX@listenercrossword.com>

Feb 19

to me

Hi, George.

My co-editor XXXXX XXXXXXX and I have written a Listener crossword for which we’re interested in a variety of solvers’ reactions. Would you mind test-solving it and letting us know what you think? This wouldn’t disqualify you from entering when/if the puzzle is published, as there may be later changes (and we won’t tell you whether you got it right).


That’s awesome!  How do you get an @listenercrossword.com email address?  Do all setters get them?  I wonder if you email mick@rollingstones.com whether you would get a reply?

George gets to frantically typing a reply…

George Heard <glheard@gmail.com>

Feb 19



   Sure I can give it a go. What is the expected turnaround time?

Scene 3:  The Listener Crossword secret HQ.  Kea and Tiburon nod, link keys together and open the secret folder containing the files of Listener Crosswords.


This is madness? Do we really trust him with a crossword of this importance?


I don’t know, old chap.  What’s the worst that could happen?


He’ll make some silly transcription errors and have terrible jokes. Maybe write a blog making us out to be evil masterminds


It’s a risk we have to take

XXX XXXX <XXXXX@listenercrossword.com>

Feb 19

to me

Thanks, George; the puzzle is attached. As soon as you can, please, though it won’t be urgent for a few weeks yet.

Scene 4:  A laboratory in a college campus.

Students are running riot, using acid to torture stinkbugs, setting each other on fire with bunsen burners, and tearing pages of their lab books out.  George is completely ignoring the mayhem – at the demonstrator’s bench sits a dog-eared copy of Bradfords, a surprisingly neat copy of Chambers, a few sheets of paper, and a laptop.

George Heard <glheard@gmail.com>

Feb 19

You hit a strangely good day for me… I wound up having to supervise a 3-hour lab in the afternoon which gave me plenty of time to poke and prod.  I think I’m all done bar the understanding of the definition for TATHS and the wordplay for TAMARAO.  Total solving time around 2 hours.

The way in to the theme was pretty straightforward – after solving the anagram for ANAHEIM, then 9 down looked like an anagram of (HERIDEAS) + 3 of the same letters… I tried O then N, then T in Word Wizard to get THIRD ESTATE, which means we’re looking for some sort of group of people, maybe the masses.  Solving CHENGDU and seeing that 1 could be COMMONsomething – COMMONALTY confirmed the theme early on in. The first two circles having ES strongly suggested ESOTERIsomething – wasn’t too confident so I didn’t put them in.  The K from RUC left the message at MO????K?THI?  which was the point where I figured MORE LIKE THIS was going to be the message – knowing there would be two R’s let me reverse engineer GRASSROOTS and RABBLE-ROUT.  From there on it was sursolving.

Not sure how I feel about it – I guess it has been a while since there was a Listener about The Listener Crossword (the one for the 1000th Times Listener?  Tribute to Viking?  The one that had John Green’s address in the grid?), but those aren’t my personal favorite themes.  I like connections to a theme, and clever play with literary works that I can get a hold of.  The grid contains four entries that aren’t in Chambers (CHENGDU, ANAHEIM, BRAHMS and DYFED) – I’ve been to Anaheim, and I know of Brahms, but I had to Google the others for confirmation – though they don’t cross each other in the grid.  A-EFFECT is very well hidden in Chambers.  So it’s a pleasant easier solve, but it didn’t exactly wow me.  Did you consider not giving the enumerations, since it gives away which are the latent letter clues?

Here’s how I had the cluesACROSS:
7)  TAT,HS (googling TATHS COUNTRY DRESS pulls up a few hits, but I can’t see it in Chambers… I thought maybe country dressing was some tongue-in-cheek name for a cowpat maybe)
11)  HIP(<-ILL) – HOI POLLOI latent O
14)  AMEN-RA (hidden, reversed)
16)  NIL (LINe reversed)
18)  GASSOOTS:  ASS in STOOGe reversed – GRASSROOTS latent R
20)  DEEM (MEED reversed)
21)  DI,ZEN
23)  SAM,HT rev, SS – THE MASSES latent E
25)  BARBER(BAR rev),OUT: RABBLE-ROUT latent L
30)  FIXER:  REX,IF reversed
31)  INFO (hidden)
35)  CAN(ALL)E – CANAILLE latent I
38)  RUC – CUR reversed, RUCK, latent K
39)  BR,A,HM,’S – I like when Queen is HM
40)  A(EF,FE)CT
41)  L(O)UNGE
42)  DY(F)ED
43)  M(UL,TIT)UD:  MULTITUDE, latent E
1)  C(HEN,GaoleD)U
2)  OIDIA: sOIl then AID reversed
3)  O,PAL
4)  A,L(S)OON – ALSOON was in a recent Azed puzzle, so it was still in my mind, otherwise this is the sort of clue that will trip me up
5)  LIED (dd)
6)  TAP,rUm
7)  TAMARAO: MARA in OAT reversed
10)  RAMS<-,M,S
13)  UNSEAT hidden alternating
15)  ERD(red) – HERD latent H
19)  THE,ED (I originally thought this was ‘T,RE,ED until I got 23)
24)  SUITES (sounds like SWEETS)
25)  RFFRAFF:  Hmmm… there’s something about this clue that’s nagging me… I see it’s RF(alternating letters in RAFAEL, minus E) surrounding FF(following, though isn’t FF following pages?), RAF.  Anyway, RIFFRAFF latent I
26)  BEN(AME)D
27)  ERECTED (R for L in ELECTED)
30)  FILFOT: hidden reversed (really cunning hidden reversed clue, probably my favorite clue in the puzzle)
32)  UG,LUV all reversed – VULGUS, latent S
36) AITU, “I,too”
37)  LO,LL (took me a while to realize this was a reference to 41 being LOUNGE)
38)  RENT, hidden

Hope this is helpful and please feel free to call on me again or follow up!

Scene 5:  Listener Headquarters.  Kea is lining up executive desk toys, and Tiburon is constructing Playfair squares from 19-letter phrases.  “You’ve got mail” sounds in the room.  They both rise and crane over the official computer of the Listener Crossword, an Apple II LC with a 9-inch CRT screen.


He solved, it, he actually solved it?


He doesn’t just read the solution and make up those blogs afterwards


He doesn’t know what Taths is


Is it a thing?


We may never know.  I guess we should thank him.

XXXX XXXXXX <xxxxx@listenercrossword.com>

Feb 19

to me

Thanks, that’s useful feedback.


P.S. You know, it would be really cool to have the email address georgethebastard@listenercrossword.com, george@listenercrossword.com or hoopyfrood@listenercrossword.com

6 Responses

  1. Touché again, George. We’ve obviously got too much time on our hands!


  2. I’m procrastinating things I don’t want to do, but that’s the case most of the time. Too funny we both wrote scripts for the same week!

  3. Are you two sure that you’re not the same person ?

  4. Good point – I don’t think Dave and I have been seen in the same room together. Hmmm… are you me?

  5. Totally enjoyed them both – laugh aloud blogs (and everyone knows DaveH and I are one and the same person as we always blog almost identically, so are we us?)

  6. Is anyone who they really are?

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